Our Story began in July of 1845 when eleven women arrived in Saint Martin, a village of French and Irish settlers at the northern tip of Brown County. John Baptist Purcell, Archbishop of Cincinnati had urged these Ursuline Sisters to establish a school for young ladies. He wanted their presence in his diocese because this organization of women founded by Saint Angela in 1535 was known for the quality of their education.
An Englishwoman named Julia Chatfield led the group, bringing an Irish novice and postulant from Boulogne, a metropolitan city in northern France. Pauline Laurier, accompanied by seven French-speaking sisters from the farming area of Beaulieu joined her. The Archbishop offered them a tract of land that was part of the Virginia Military Land Grant deeded to the Archdiocese by General John Lytle. So much did they identify with the spirit of their new environment, that they became known legally as the Ursulines of Brown County.
The academy they built reached distinction as an educational institution. Families who wanted a balanced program of learning and culture for their daughters chose THE SCHOOL OF THE BROWN COUNTY URSULINES. Girls came from New York and California, Canada, and South America and places in between. The opportunity to share life with persons of many cultures was a rich experience, teaching openness and tolerance and flexibility along with the expected Christian values. But progress brought new needs and made boarding schools seem less practical. In 1981 the High School closed and the original building was leveled.
URSULINE ACADEMY was opened in Cincinnati as a day school in 1896 and soon built a reputation for excellence. Their college preparatory program continues to thrive at their present location in Blue Ash, a Cincinnati suburb.
A college program established on the St. Martin campus for the basic liberal arts education of young women entering Religious life aroused the interest of local people, and in 1971 CHATFIELD COLLEGE opened its doors to the public. It grew and established a strong reputation as a place for adults to steep themselves in the basics of liberal arts higher education. In 1989 Chatfield College opened a campus in the inner city of Cincinnati. Both campuses boasted a total population of around 300 students. The same appreciation for learning that the eleven foundresses had brought with them in their combination of rural culture and metropolitan know-how continues to bear fruit. In January of 2023, Chatfield College closed its doors as a 2-year private college and became THE CHATFIELD EDGE, a nonprofit agency focused on supporting postsecondary education attainment. The Chatfield Edge continues our legacy by providing education attainment services, academic scholarships, mentoring, and job readiness support to qualified first-generation and non-traditional students in Greater Cincinnati.
At present, there are 17 Brown County Ursulines. Some of these women have accepted leadership roles in education and social services in many different localities and are politically and socially active in addressing rural and urban social justice issues. We are interested in the healthy development of Brown County and every other area to which their outreach has carried them.